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  Cord Blood Banking
  About Cord Blood
  Cord Blood Stem Cells
  Diseases Treated
  Pros and Cons
  How To Preserve
  Banking Process
  Why Cord Blood Banking
  Types of Cord Blood Banks
  Public Cord Blood Bank
  Private Cord Blood Bank
  Selecting Cord Blood Bank
  Cost For Cord Blood Banking
  Ethical Issues
  Cord Blood FAQs

What Diseases Can Be Treated with Stem Cells?

In general, there are three different types of stem cells – adult stem cells found in the bone marrow, umbilical cord blood stem cells found in the umbilical cords of newborn babies and embryonic stem cells harvested from human embryos. The latter of these remains controversial; however, adult stem cells are presently being used to treat a variety of diseases and umbilical cord blood stem cells are being studied and are expected to play a role in curing a number of conditions as well.

To treat leukemia, aplastic anemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, other cancers and a number of blood disorders, patients often receive bone marrow transplants. The bone marrow is rich in hematopoietic adult stem cells, which have the ability to develop into any of the various types of mature blood cells that are needed by our bodies.

In our bodies, white blood cells – also called leukocytes – fight infection. Leukemia occurs when these leukocytes become cancerous. To treat leukemia, the unhealthy leukocytes must be eradicated so that healthy leukocytes can take their place. Usually, chemotherapy and/or radiation are used to kill the patient's leukocytes before the donor bone marrow is introduced. The healthy stem cells from the donor bone marrow then begin to produce new, healthy leukocytes.

While bone marrow transplants can be very effective, they are no guarantee that the disease is cured and won’t recur. However, bone marrow transplants usually do a good job of providing a long period of health for a great number of patients. In fact, any time the immune system has been destroyed – after treatment for an autoimmune disease, for example – bone marrow transplants may be helpful to help reconstitute the immune system.

Studies are also in process to determine the feasibility of using stem cells to treat a variety of diseases and chronic conditions, including cancer, blindness, burns, arthritis, neurological birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, Lupus, heart damage and/or failure, spinal cord injury, neurological disorders, liver disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), Crohn's disease and Huntington's disease. Stem cells may even be able one day to help us re-grow missing teeth and hair, and assist in wound healing.

One advantage of using umbilical cord blood stem cells is that these cells are less likely to cause a negative reaction in the recipient. Anytime a transplant is made, there’s the possibility that the recipient's body will attack and reject the transplanted material. There’s also the possibility that the transplanted material will attack the host's body – a condition known as graft versus host disease. Both of these are less likely with umbilical cord blood stem cells than with the more mature adult bone marrow stem cells, making them better candidates for curing diseases and chronic conditions.

For this reason, many health care providers advocate storing your baby’s cord blood stem cells for future use. However, research has yet to conclusively prove that stem cells will be able to cure anything – now or in the future – and private cord blood bank programs may be costly. If you or your family members have genetic risk factors, it may be a smart move. But as with most medical decisions, it’s one that you’ll need to make after doing thorough research into which options make sense for you.

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